As I drove to the car park a Green Woodpecker landed on a nearby fence post, close up the red on its head was so prominent and it seemed huge. After a quick chat with the Warden and watching the Blue and Great Tits, Robins, Blackbirds and Chaffinches etc. on the feeders I made my way up to the viewpoint. Tthe wind was pretty biting up there utterly exposed to it. The floods looked fantastic and waterfowl were everywhere in huge numbers, Teal, Mallard, Shoveller, Widgeon, Gadwall and Tufted Duck
After ten minutes it was good to get off the hill into the shelter. It was my plan to go to the heronry where I hadn’t been for some months, in the sheep field opposite the orchard 14 Fieldfare gave away their presence by the familiar chack-chackering as they flew off, shortly afterwards a male Sparrowhawk flew low across the fence and twisted and turned through the shrubbery like a minature exocet, no doubt hoping to surprise a meal. Wood pigeon, Crow and Rook were all over as well as a lot of Magpie with several Pied Wagtail flitting around.
I had been warned that the ground was soggy out to the Heronry viewpoint and my informant wasn’t wrong. Once there the cold wet feet were forgotten as an over-head raptor speck stooped closer to become a Peregrine Falcon and sailed off over the marsh towards the Thames. Within 30 seconds a huge flock of mixed pigeon and corvids came off the marsh seeking the safety of the herons’ wood.
In the low scrub a badger track was evident weaving muddily through the undergrowth and into briar patch. Just outside the reserve entrance a big Brock had lain just off the road, road kill no doubt, but it could have been curled up asleep. I hoped it was not that creature that had created the soggy track. I could hear the sound of gunfire just off the reserve the other side of the hedge, it was a stark reminder that as much as we cherish the wildlife around us to some they are just a target or a dent in their bumper.
On the way back across the field a Kestrel hung against the wind. I hadn’t seen a Marsh Harrier yet but in the distance was the unmistakeable shallow quartering V over the reed beds. I got a good view of it as it twisted and manoeuvred intent on the ground below. It was pleasing to see that it was a second year male. I then saw two female /juveniles looking for their tea as well way away, such a fantastic sight I never tire of them.
Over by the southern river bank several large flocks were up and they were all Lapwing, maybe 1500 in total, then a huge cloud of what were probably Godwit at that distance and so back towards the car park and another look at the floods, this time noting the substantial numbers of Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe. I remembered last time I was here a female Merlin had sat the otherside of where the water line had been. Not this time however.
Just as I left the site I couldn’t resist a quick photo of the setting sun over a distance Chattenden. I’m glad I did. The picture was rubbish ,but as I approached the gate a female Merlin was sat in the middle of the road and flew off through the yard. A perfect end to an afternoon
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